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The Groom to Have Beenby Saher Alam
Synopses & Reviews
The engagement had been announced before the terrible thing happened. Sometimes it was hard to remember that. And at other times, when one was deep in the midst of choosing table linens and centerpieces, it became possible not to think about the terribleness at all, to let it drift into a distant corner of one's mind as if it had happened in a distant corner of the world. Even so, there were some on Nasr's side who, as late as November, suggested that postponing the wedding (perhaps even indefinitely) would not, under the circumstances, be an unreasonable request to make of the bride's family. Eventually, it was the perhaps even indefinitely part that would catch Nasr's attention--what, exactly, had that meant? But at the time he was simply annoyed. He wondered how long he and Farah were expected to accommodate world events. And he knew that the people who had made such remarks were letting themselves see bad omens and connectivity even though one thing had been set in motion before the other.
But before all that, in August at the engagement party, there had been a sharp, satisfying little gasp from the crowd when Nasr pulled open the blue clamshell box containing the ring he had secretly purchased. Sitting beside him, Farah had drawn back, too. Her face was concealed behind a filmy green rupatta, so Nasr couldn't tell by her eyes whether her slim shoulders had reacted to the flash of the carats or to the sound of their reception. He paused to wait for an instruction from one of his elders on how to proceed. He didn't mind extending these little courtesies; to him, they were not acts of blind deference but facets of a sensitivity to the benefits of accommodation that he had long cultivated in himself. A pinch of patience cost the younger generation so little and meant so much to the older set.
Hosted by Nasr's mother, the party was originally meant to be a small affair, as the proposing and accepting had already happened twice, first in July, over the phone, with Nasr in New York and Farah back here in Canada. When he called to deliver the happy news to his mother, she'd exclaimed, Arre, but Hamid Uncle hasn't even met them yet, which was her way of reminding him that she herself, by an albeit unexpected turn, had yet to meet Farah or the other Ansaris. To banish entirely the notion that Nasr and Farah had acted of their own accord, the two families convened a few days later for the presentation of a peghaam, a formal proposal written and recited by Hamid Uncle, who was a close friend of Nasr's family.
This party in August was, therefore, the third marking of Farah's acceptance, and although Mrs. Ansari had originally wanted to serve as hostess, when the guest list swelled to fifty she conceded that the Ansaris' tiny bungalow plus basement wouldn't suffice. Instead, the Siddiquis' living-room furniture was pushed to the walls, white sheets were laid over the carpet, and heavy, log-shaped cushions were strewn about. A low sofa was put out in the center of the room, where the bride and groom accepted blessings and were subjected to all manner of related but unsolicited attention: chin-squeezing and cheek-pinching. But the crowd now looming above Nasr and Farah, though several bodies thick in every direction (the closest layer being all ladies: mothers and aunts, brightly dressed and elaborately bejeweled), was watchful and strangely unassertive. Also st
Preparing for the arranged marriage he hopes will appease his traditional Islamic family, Nasr begins to realize that his true love is Jameela, a woman who rebels against her community's traditions and whom he has known since childhood, but as he contemplates an escape from his duty, the 9/11 tragedy turns the entire world upside down. A first novel. Original. 20,000 first printing.
A love story inspired by The Age of Innocence, about a young man and woman thwarted by tradition and the fears of a world suddenly defined by tragedy
Just as Nasr, a young man with a vibrant professional and social life in New York, begins to prepare for the arranged marriage he hopes will appease his Indian Muslim family and assure him a union as happy as his parents’, he starts to suspect that his true love has been within his reach his entire life. Nasr has known Jameela since they were children, and for nearly that long she has flouted the traditions her community holds dear. But now the rebellion that always made her seem dangerous suddenly makes him wonder if she might be his perfect match. Feeling increasingly trapped as his wedding date approaches, Nasr contemplates a drastic escape, but in the wake of 9/11, new fears and old prejudices threaten to stand between him and the promise of happiness. Current in its political themes and classic in its treatment of doomed love, The Groom to Have Been is a graceful and emotionally charged debut.
About the Author
Saher Alam was born in Lucknow, India, in 1973, and moved to the United States when she was five. She is a graduate of Princeton University and the Creative Writing program at Boston University. She was a fiction fellow at Emory University, and her stories have appeared in Best of the Fiction Workshops and the journal Literary Imagination. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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